Monday, September 29, 2008
Ah, one of the greatest things about school is how the intensity of the semester makes breaks all the more delightful! As I'm sure you can imagine, I've been cooking up a storm this past week... It's been such a glorious gift to linger in the kitchen, trying new ideas and evolving new recipes. My cooking endeavors lately seem to fall into 3 categories - elaborate meals that I wouldn't have had time to prepare during the semester, expedient recipes that I'll be able to add to my repertoire for time-scarce clinical nights in the upcoming semester, and finally, baking baking and more baking (to such an extent that when I came home from work last week and suggested to Zach that I was thinking of baking him cupcakes, his hasty response was "No, please, you've already baked 3 batches of cookies... Why don't you bake some bread instead?" Which I did - and more about the bread in the near future.)
At the moment, though, I want to share a recipe that belongs to the second category, and which renders such magic in an unbelievably simple manner that we were completely awed with the results. An intense spice rub, melded with just a wee bit of raw sugar, caramelizes around chicken and tofu to produce slightly sticky, sweet-spicy morsels that are simply transporting... Especially with a streamlined, surprisingly low-fat gravy...
Spice-Rubbed Chicken or Tofu
1 T sugar
1 T chili powder
2 T olive oil
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes OR 2 lbs tofu, cut into 1" cubes (you can also keep the chicken breasts whole, or use slices of tofu, if you want a larger presentation, as I did the second time I fixed this recipe, depicted in the first picture above... it will just take longer to cook.)
1 T olive oil
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 T brown gravy mix or whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
Brown rice for serving
Roasted red pepper strips, for garnish (optional)
~ To make the spice rub, whisk together the first 9 ingredients to make a paste.
~ Coat the chicken or tofu cubes well with the paste.
~ In a large skillet on medium-high, heat the 1 T olive oil and saute the chicken or tofu until the chicken is cooked through or the tofu is browned on the outside.
~ To make the gravy, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium high heat until the onion is limp and translucent. Reduce the heat to medium, whisk in the brown gravy mix or flour, and cook for one minute, whisking quickly and constantly. Continuing to whisk vigerously, gradually pour in the broth. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the desired thickness is reached.
~ To serve, top the rice with the chicken or tofu, add some roasted red pepper strips if you desire, and top everything with gravy... Voila! Easy-breezy! The chicken or tofu is also lovely just plain as well...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
It's now been exactly 5 glorious days into my week-long break from school, and yesterday, for the first time, I felt full calm descend upon me. I came home from work, and, inspired by the unusually crisp and lovely fall weather, mowed the lawn. Afterward, surveying the soft expanse of even grass, with the verdant scent of grass clippings lingering satisfyingly in the air, a deep sigh of peace and contentment passed through me.
These past few days, with a heightened sense of the preciousness of this brief respite foremost in my mind, I've been thinking quite a bit about how to maintain one's inner peace in the face of circumstances and individuals who do their best to strip you of your last shards of calm. While during my time in nursing school I have encountered endless examples of human courage coming from my patients, I have also witnessed, surprisingly, so much anger, and so much bitterness, coming from our teachers. I had hoped for teachers to inspire us, instill the gifts of nurturing and care, but instead my fellow students and I have been repeatedly treated with resentment and disgust - whether because of an "old-school toughness" approach to teaching, or because of circumstances in our teachers' lives of which we will likely never know, I am not aware, and I suspect a mixture of both. However, since we cannot always change the circumstances surrounding us, I have been reflecting deeply on how best to accept and mentally prepare for my remaining 7 months in the program.
I know I will draw strength from the uplifting and inspiring clinical experiences, and I am blessed to share this journey with my friends, my classmates. I will pray for strength. I will try not to cry, but I will likely do so anyway. I will try to remember that regardless of negative energy surrounding me, the blessing of being alive transcends everything.
I will try to remember the beauty in a single grain of rice...
Pecan and Hazelnut Rice
1 2/3 cup beef or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups brown rice
1 cup pecan halves
2 T toasted hazelnut oil
salt and black pepper to taste
~ Bring the broth, water, and white wine to a boil in a saucepan.
~ Add the rice, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes - until all the liquid has been absorbed.
~ Remove the rice from the heat, and stir in the pecans, hazelnut oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
And now, ladies and gentlemen, a brief preamble about my policy on baking mixes... We've all used them in a pinch, and I certainly wouldn't fuss anyone using them on a regular basis - after all, they foster baking, and I'm thoroughly in support of baking activities emerging from all ovens. That said... I grew up in a family where prepared baking mixes were against our culinary religious code. They didn't taste the same as homemade, they were way too expensive compared to baking from scratch, and they were just "too easy" (to fully understand this concept, you have to realize that when I was around 10 years old or so, my family accomplished nearly all of our farm labor completely by hand, simply because using tractors and their various automated cousins would be, yep, you guessed it, "too easy.")
However, growing up as a farm-girl, I also learned to be resourceful. So when I set out this week to bake a batch of cream horns for the first time, I resigned myself to one of the few items I always purchase pre-made - puff pastry. While learning to make homemade puff pastry is definitely on my list of life goals, sandwiched somewhere between skydiving and learning to surf, I was fully aware that a Monday night homework break whim was not the time to embark upon such an endeavor (be that skydiving or puff pastry making).
I had quite a cream horn standard to meet, as well. We are fortunate to live just a few steps away from a tiny, delightful, family-run bakery, which happens to make the perfect cream horns. I brought home some on a whim a few weeks ago, and was absolutely delighted with Zach's reaction as he slowly and savoringly "mmmmmed" his way through a cream horn. Of course, I had to learn how to bake them for him.
So, armed with determination, I set out on Monday night to fetch puff pastry and whipping cream (something, confess, that almost never resides in our fridge! :-). At the grocery, however, I was met with the most puzzling disappointment - there was nary a sheet of puff pastry to be found. Apparently, no one in our county bakes with puff pastry. So, I did the previously unthinkable - I purchased, for the first time ever, a package of crescent roll dough. The newness of such an endeavor is not due to snobbery, I assure you, just the long conditioning of a frugal upbringing...
But I was a farm-girl, and when something goes awry in a plan, you fix it with duct tape and baling twine - or crescent roll dough.
And sometimes, you create something even better (and softer and chewier and more delicious) than you'd planned along the way.
Farm-Girl Cream Horns
1 package crescent roll dough
1 T water
1 1/2 cup cream
6 T sugar
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 6 cream horn molds.
~ Wrap 1 and 1/2 sheet of crescent roll dough around each cream horn mold, and place the resulting dough horns on an ungreased baking sheet.
~ Whisk the egg with the water, and brush the egg wash across each of the dough horns.
~ Sprinkle each of the dough horns liberally with sugar.
~ Bake the dough horns for 12 to 15 minutes - until golden brown.
~ Remove the dough horns from the oven, and allow to cool.
~ Meanwhile, whip the cream and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks. Place the cream in the fridge to chill while the cream horns are cooling.
~ With a slight twisting motion, gently remove each of the cream horn molds from the dough horns.
~ To fill the horns, spoon the whipped cream into a pastry bag or a zip-top plastic bag with a lower corner cut off. Pipe the whipped cream into each of the horns, filling them as bountifully full as possible.
~ Serve with extra whipped cream for dipping!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The completion of final exams tells my tired brain that I just finished another term, so I'm now officially halfway through my current nursing program. Honestly, I've never before had such an emotionally draining educational experience. I want to laugh with joy and cry in despair every single day! (and most days, I do... :-)
but it's worth it to have a patient's 11 year old daughter run up to you, hug you, and say "thank you for making my mommy feel better..." Wow. I tried to tell her that all I did was cheer her mom up a bit by chatting and making a game for taking deep breaths, and that I'm only a nursing student and that the doctor and the "real" nurses should get the credit, but the girl's sweet, innocent gratitude persisted... and she made my world a sweeter, kinder place, and, without knowing it, did far more for me than I ever could have repaid...
People are incredible, aren't they?
And lots of luscious sauteed vegetables are wonderful for people...
Yellow Squash and Portabella Mushrooms in Rosemary Cream
1 T olive oil
8 oz portabella mushrooms, sliced
5 smallish-medium sized yellow squash, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 cup light cream or whole milk
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/8 cup chopped parsley
Salt and lots of pepper to taste
~ In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute the mushrooms in the olive oil until they release their juices.
~ Add the garlic and rosemary, and saute for 1 more minute.
~ Add the squash, stir well for a bit, and then cover the skillet and let the squash steam until it's just crisp-tender and not quite cooked all the way through, stirring occasionally.
~ Pour in the cream and milk, and allow everything to simmer very gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened just a bit and the squash has finished cooking.
~ Stir in the parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve nice and warm.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I don't particularly enjoy buying grocery items in gigantic bulk quantities. Sometimes it's necessary, for economical or logistical reasons, but I don't really like wrestling with a 24-roll package of paper towels that is bigger than I am, wondering all the while if I should ask the paper towels to drive the car home, given that they overwhelm me in both number and stature.
The same applies to grocery lists pages long, with the unspoken threat of monopolizing an entire afternoon, no matter how much I truly do enjoy grocery shopping.
So I behave inefficiently. I shop for groceries frequently and in small quantites, picking up a bit of produce on Sunday, a box of cereal on Monday, cat food on Wednesday, and so forth... Such a procedure might seem imprudent given the current cost of gasoline, but we are fortunate to live nearly walking distance from several grocery markets, and accepting the routine of multiple trips immures me to the other contributing factor - namely that I am just absent minded enough to forget at least one item on every single trip, necessitating a subsequent journey within a 48 hour time period.
At the store yesterday, I remembered the last item on my mental list - 5-grain tempeh - right as I was carrying my basket to the check-out isle, and I resorted to dumping the basket in line and running at top speed back through the refrigerated produce section. Unfortunately, I'd chosen to wear my favorite jeans that day, which are way too big for me, and when already low-rise jeans are too large, well... Let's just say that I was flying among the lettuce and pears trying to find the tempeh without losing my clothing. Some wise people might have just slowed down and maintained an aura of A Dignified Shopper, but I am blessed (or cursed) with a complete disregard for embarrasing myself in front of strangers.
Yes, the fact that I have to return to the grocery store sometimes twice in the same day when I'm being especially absent minded (usually trying to talk on the phone or read my notes for an upcoming test while grocery shopping) can be occasionally annoying... but it also reminds me to be thankful - in a world where so many have so little, the fact that we are able to regularly visit a well-stocked grocery store and buy nourishing food, and even have enough for dessert, reminds me that even when times are challanging, we are still truly blessed.
For a glorious bowl full... I'm thankful.
Creamy Cabbage and Potato Stew
4 slices turkey bacon, chopped; bacon, chopped; OR smoked tempeh, chopped, plus 2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cups shredded cabbage
4 potatoes, baked in the microwave and cut into bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 cup beef broth OR vegetable broth
Salt and lots of pepper to taste
~ In a large stockpot over medium heat, brown the bacon or tempeh. If you used bacon, drain off the drippings.
~ Stir in the onion, and saute until limp and translucent.
~ Stir in the cabbage, and cook until the cabbage just begins to wilt, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the potatoes, milk, and broth, stir well, cover the pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most, but not all, of the liquid is absorbed.
~ Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm! Simple and soothing...
Friday, September 19, 2008
Fear not, the pasta and black-eyed peas aren't all in the same dish... (although come to think of it, that might be a rather good southern US twist on pasta e fagioli...)
We did serve pasta and black-eyed peas in one night, though - one one of those nights when we'd brought our textbooks down to the kitchen with us, and we wanted to cook something luscious while still having time to study...
I love reading my fellow bloggers' stories for a multitude of reasons, one of which is that I find it so comforting to be reminded that I'm not the only one trying to create nourishing, delicious, lovingly homemade meals amidst the often-chaotic intricacies of life that seem to have a whirlwind mind of their own.
So when time is scarce, which I know it often is, here are two of our favorite "humble foods..."
Humble Pasta all'Amatriciana
6 slices bacon, chopped OR 6 sliced smoked tempeh plus 1 T olive oil
2 sweet vidalia onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth OR vegetable broth
1 (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes, with the juice (i.e. not drained)
1/8 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 lb. whole wheat pasta, cooked according to package directions
~ In a large, non-stick stockpot or skillet, cook the bacon or tempeh until browned. If you used the bacon, drain off the drippings.
~ Add the onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are limp and golden.
~ Pour in the broth and tomatoes, and simmer for 15 minutes or so - until the sauce is thickened just a bit.
~ Stir in the parsley and basil.
~ Fold in the pasta, and you're ready to serve!
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
4 cups black-eyed peas, frozen or canned
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/8 cup chopped celery
1-2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 T white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
~ In a saucepan, simmer the black-eyed peas, onion, bell pepper, and celery in the broth until nicely soft and tender, adding additional broth as needed if the pan gets a bit dry. Whey they're cooked, simmer them just a bit more to remove any excess broth still remaining in the pan.
~ While the peas are cooking, whisk together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, and sugar.
~ When the peas are cooked, remove them from the heat and toss them in the dressing.
~ Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm or cold!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Having a dinner party on a Monday night is Not Wise. Especially when you have a big test the next day, and then final exams to begin studying immediately thereafter. But one cannot always be wise, and sometimes one needs to stop being wise for a few hours, so host the dinner party we did... Complete with some intensely delicious, If-You-Are-The-Kind-Of-Person-Who-Will-Host-a-Dinner-Party-on-a-Monday-Night-Then-You-Will-Like-These-Cookies, kind of cookies.
Now it's Tuesday, and the most exciting thing that's happened all day thus far was Zach having to climb over the washer and dryer because Roux the cat had somehow managed to wedge herself between the washing machine and the wall, and was mewing plaintively to be rescued...
But we do still have those cookies. That's an intense enough ordinary Tuesday for me. :-)
Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookies
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup raw sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butterscotch morsels
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
~ Toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside
~ Beat the butter, applesauce, and peanut butter together until well-blended.
~ Add the raw sugar and egg, and beat until fluffy.
~ Stir in the milk and vanilla.
~ Stir in the flour mixture until combined.
~ Technically you would want to fold in the butterscotch morsels at this point, but the dough will be rather thick and I actually find it easier to "fold," aka smoosh, the butterscotch morsels into the dough with your hands.
~ Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets, and, if the cookies look a bit tall, flatten them a smidgen with a fork.
~ Bake 12 minutes - until the cookies just hold their shape, but not until they are all the way firm, because they will firm up quite a bit once they come out of the oven.
~ Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets - if they aren't spirited away first...
Friday, September 12, 2008
I must truly be the most fortunate gal on the planet. Last night, when I walked through the front door so glad to be home after being awake for more hours than I would have thought humanly possible, and just thankful that one of my patients had not gone into cardiac arrest that morning when he was having stabbing chest pains and his blood pressure was bottoming out, that it took a moment for the wonderful aromas floating from the kitchen to register in my brain. Not only had Zach cooked a beautiful supper... but he had even made homemade caramel candy for dessert...
Caramel Candy Sundaes
6 oz sugar
1 T milk or soymilk
Ice cream or vegan ice dream
Whipped cream or vegan whipped "cream"
~ Pour the sugar into a small skillet set over medium heat, and let the sugar sit patiently in the pan for 5 minutes. This will be very hard to do, because (at least if you are me), you will want to know what on earth is going on underneath the pile of ordinary looking sugar...
~ After 5 minutes, you can give the skillet a good shake, and you will finally be able to see that the sugar is starting to melt.
~ Once a quarter of the sugar has melted (this will take about 3 more minutes), you can begin briskly stirring the sugar until all the sugar has melted and a total cooking time of 10 minutes has been reached.
~ Remove the pan from the heat, and pour in the milk or soymilk while stirring very briskly - the cold liquid will make the caramel want to clump unless you are stirring vigerously.
~ Now here comes the part that you'll want to do differently than we initially did. Scoop the ice cream into individual dishes, and then spoon the hot caramel by small quantities (around 1/2 tsp at a time) on top of the ice cream. Each drop of caramel will instantly cool and form into a small, hard caramel candy. Avoid pouring a large quantity onto the ice cream in a big lava of caramel (which is what we did because we thought it would be pretty) - you'll wind up with a huge, oddly shaped caramel lollipop that doesn't integrate into the ice cream well.
~ By the time you finish spooning the dollops of caramel onto the ice cream, your ice cream will have begun to melt a bit. Gently fold the caramel candies into the ice cream to distribute them throughout, then return the dishes of ice cream to the freezer until the ice cream has firmed up again.
~ When the dishes are ready to serve, top them with whipped cream!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
When I was a strictly raw foodie, one of my favorite parts of raw cuisine (well, perhaps second only to the most incredible raw marinara sauce that I was almost tempted to spoon straight from the food processor, pretending it was gazpacho), were the delightfully healthful desserts one could make from the simplest of ingredients, wielding magic with dried fruits, nuts, and cocoa powder to create everything from dainty candies to smooth and fudgey brownies (please do visit CookieMouse's blog for several incredible posts on nourishing raw desserts!
Imagine my horror, then, when I arrived in class this morning to find our professor distributing recipes for a delightful concoction that I would have termed fruit and nut truffles - except she had named them laxative balls!
The recipe was as follows:
Take equal parts raisins, dates, dried figs, prunes, and sliced fresh plums, and puree in the food processor. Shape into balls, roll in chopped nuts, and refrigerate until firm.
Sounds delicious, right?
Well, it did, at least until our professor added the caveat: "encourage your patients to consume 1 to 2 laxative balls for medicinal purposes daily."
Talk about taking the joy out of food!
Personally, I prefer "try this delicious recipe for a raw fruit candy. It's full of nutrients and fiber, and makes the perfect snack when you're craving something indulgent and sweet!"
But that's just me. ;-)
I also prefer homemade spinach and artichoke dip. (Yes, I know, that was a random transition, but a rainy Tuesday lends itself to stream of consciousness...) If you've been to any of the multitudinous chain mid-level restaurants in the States, I'm sure you've seen spinach and artichoke dip on the menu. Various concoctions range from vaguely green thick glop that looks like it was just oozed out of a large, pre-made bag (and it probably was), to delightful assembliges of chunks of artichoke heart bathed in parmesan. None of the above mentioned versions are remotely "light," however, and the nutritive value of the artichokes hardly redeams the saturated fat consumed with every spoonful. Eeek! And while I'm all for the occasional indulgence, I also fancied creating a more healthful version that we could serve on a regular basis if we were throwing a dinner party or just wanted a pre-dinner nibble while we cooked a leasurely weekend supper.
Hence, our own artichoke dip was born... Pureeing it completley provides lots of creamy, fluffy texture without the mountains of cream, and its flavor is very fresh and pure - with only 4 ingredients!
Fluffy Artichoke Dip
4 oz fat free or light cream cheese (depending on how light you want the recipe to be)
3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
~ Puree all ingredients together in a food processor until light, fluffy, and well blended.
~ Season to taste with salt and pepper.
~ Serve with crackers, baked corn chips, or raw veggies... I like mine on whole wheat matzah, and Zach insists that whole wheat matzah tastes like cardboard, and perfers his on Ritz crackers! :-)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Working in the hospital never ceases to astound me. Most of the time patients arrest my thoughts with their inspiring hope and determination, but others are simply puzzling, at best. In nearly every room of the hospital people are fighting for their lives, but on occasion the ER will host someone with apparent total disregard for their own well-being. Unfortunately, some of these cases are tragic. Frequently, however, they are tinged with humor and a giant dose of "what the heck were you thinking?"
For instance, I was setting up an EKG on a young man a few weeks ago while the ER charge nurse was interviewing him... (in the interest of not violating any privacy edicts, please note that no names or locations are disclosed here... Yes, I'm a little bit paranoid - I've had to watch too many JACO regulations instruction videos already! :-)
Nurse: "You're having tightness in your chest?"
Nurse: "Was there any event that preceded the onset of the chest tightness?"
Patient: "Yeah, I took 8 rapid release extra strength Tylenol."
Nurse: "Why did you take so much Tylenol?"
Patient: "I had a really bad headache."
Nurse: "When did the headache start?"
Patient: "Last night, after I took some medicinal Ecstasy."
Nurse: "Medicinal Ecstasy?"
[I have to sympathize with her confusion - while I've searched for "medicinal Ecstasy" in my copy of Davis' Pharmaceutical Guide For Nurses, I have yet to unveil anything of the sort. Perhaps it's a new treatment method, to be included along with "medicinal cocaine" in the text's 2009 update?]
Patient: "Yeah, my leg was really hurting, so I thought some Ecstasy would make it feel better. I bet I would have been fine if I just hadn't taken all that Tylenol, don't you think?"
Nurse: [Declines to answer that question] "Why was your leg hurting?"
Patient: "Oh, it's no big deal, I just got stabbed last week."
Nurse: Did you get medical treatment?"
Patient: "Nah, you know how those doctors can put staples in big cuts? Well, I just figured I'd do the same thing, you know, with a stapler I had at home..."
Poor guy. If only he could realize that Tylenol was not his biggest problem...
I suppose my life is rather tame these days, especially in comparison to people who take medicinal Ecstasy... but then again, even though I'm always running in 500 directions, my life would always seem tame by those standards, for which I am thankful.
I go to work. I spend hours studying and scattering pages of notes across the floor of our office. I fold laundry. I love and am loved. I bake muffins. Thank God for my beautiful, peaceful, quiet life.
Fruit and Chocolate Muffins (Vegan ones! :-)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup raw sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups vanilla soymilk
2 T lemon juice
1 1/2 cup coarsely mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla
~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 regular or 12 large muffin cups with paper liners or coat them with cooking spray.
~ Toss together the flours, raw sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
~ In a separate bowl, whisk together the soymilk, lemon juice, banana, applesauce, olive oil, and vanilla.
~ Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture, and mix just until combined.
~ Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, filling them nearly all the way up to the top.
~ Bake for 20 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Delicious for breakfast, snacks, or even when you're craving a brownie!
Friday, September 5, 2008
During clinicals on Wednesday, I found myself hiding clandestinely in the bathroom with my cell phone (an apparatus strictly forbidden on the hospital floors), calling Zach to see if any lab test results had returned. 10 minutes later, I was scurrying back to my duties, frantically trying to compose the joy and relief written across my face and threatening to spill over. Our worst fears have been alleviated, and I am still in shock over the incredible gift that has been handed to us. With my awareness of the life's fragility newly heightened, my thoughts now linger in sympathy and concern with every family, across the world, who are struggling with lab tests and doctors offices and prognoses. May health, strength, and comfort be returned to us all.
In the kitchen, our cooking has still not returned to "normal," and I seriously wonder if it ever will, at least for a long time. Our ingredients remain simpler, our taste buds heightened to subtleties, focusing on nourishing and soothing. The discovery that the simplest of ingredients can create the most elegant of meals has been one of the many lessons of this journey...
Rosemary Oven Fries and Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Onion Balsamic Dressing
For the oven fries:
5 large baking potatoes, cut into 1/2" sticks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
~ Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Coat the potatoes thoroughly with cooking spray, then toss them with the salt and rosemary.
~ Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes - until golden brown, tossing and turning the potatoes once after 20 minutes. Serve warm, with ketchup, of course!
For the salad:
1 onion, chopped
4 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cup beef broth or vegetable broth
2 T spicy brown mustard
1 tsp rosemary
1 T light vegan margarine
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray, and saute the onion until wilted and golden.
~ Add the balsamic vinegar, and bring to a boil while scraping the pan to loosen any browned onions.
~ Add the broth, mustard, and rosemary, and boil until reduced to 1 cup or so.
~ Whisk in the vegan margarine.
~ In individual salad bowls, assemble the baby spinach, almonds, and raisins to your liking. Just before serving, spoon the warm dressing on top...
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I've been baking lots of muffins lately - hearty, whole grain, fruity or cocoa-y muffins that taste equally good plain for breakfast in the morning, or with a bit of whipped cream for dessert that night... Soothing, rustic, unfussy, cozy muffins that I can leave wrapped up in a basket on the kitchen counter for Zach to discover when he rises for breakfast, so he can know I'm thinking of him as I drive to class or clinicals in the pre-dawn hours... Muffins that nourish, muffins that center us and make us thankful to be home, together...
Double Orange Blueberry Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 T light vegan margarine
2 T olive oil
2/3 cup raw sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup orange juice
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen and unthawed
~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners, or coat them with cooking spray.
~ Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
~ In a seperate bowl, beat the vegan marg, the olive oil, and raw sugar until creamy.
~ Add the egg, orange zest, and vanilla to the sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.
~ Fold the flour mixture and the orange juice alternately into the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
~ Gently fold in the blueberries, making sure that if you are using frozen blueberries that they are still frozen (unless you want bizarrely green muffins!)
~ Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling them nearly all the way to the top if you like nice muffins of substance, like I do.
~ Bake for 15 minutes - until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.